On July 12, the Madison Board of Education will review proposals from Superintendent Rainwater that may mean the end of a long and successful collaboration between the district, the City of Madison and private child care providers to ensure quality after-school child care for elementary students. Apparently the superintendent plans to argue that MMSD can do a better job and can afford to expand into the after-school care business.
For nearly two decades, the district and the City have worked in partnership to provide high quality after-school child care for MMSD elementary students. MMSD has provided low-cost space in schools and the City has provided quality assurance, evaluating programs and training staff.
Because the City requires private providers to be city-accredited, the City holds the private programs to high standards for programs and staff. The one exception to that rule is the Safe Haven program operated by MMSD through the Madison School-Community Recreation program. Safe Haven monitors its own programs under standards that fall short of the accreditation standards.
Late this spring when parents of students enrolled at YMCA and After School Inc. programs at Allis and Midvale-Lincoln schools hoped to place their children in the same programs for fall 2004, the parents learned that Safe Haven will replace those providers. For private paying parents, fees will increase.
Parents have questioned this change for good reasons. First, they value the current providers and the quality of programs. Second, they know that Safe Haven will not be held to the same program and staffing standards. Third, they wonder why they must pay more for the MSCR program, a program paid for by taxes.
The private providers express legitimate concerns also. They continue to value the partnership with MMSD. They are very willing to work with the district to improve transportation or other services if necessary. At the same time, they are small organizations that cannot expand and contract in size every time that MMSD comes up with new funding for Safe Haven. They wonder whether MMSD plans to displace all private providers of after-school child care.
As a Board member, I question this direction. In a time of budget constraints, we must nurture community partnerships. Displacing proven programs goes in the opposite direction. At all times, we must seek the highest quality care for the children of our community. Substituting MMSD programs for accredited programs fails that standard.
Finally, the only way that MMSD can afford to increase Safe Haven programs is to continue to increase that part of residential property taxes that is not subject to revenue limits?the so-called ?community services? levy. Unless we believe that Safe Haven programs are more important than the school programs and teaching positions that we have cut, we should not increase our community service costs. The same taxpayers fund both. Voters have no choice when we increase community service spending. However, they can vote no on future referendums to pay operating costs for the schools.
To comment, contact me at email@example.com or 238-2273 or all Board members at firstname.lastname@example.org or 663-1659.
This information appeared as a Guest Editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal in June, 2004.